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Employment

The results from a global four-day working week trial are in and you’ll want to show your boss

Could a shorter working week improve wellbeing, help the environment, boost productivity and even make your company more money? We have answers

Two thirds of employees taking part in the four-day working week trial said they were less burned-out. Image: Radu Florin / Unsplash

The largest ever trial of the four-day working week spanning six countries, 33 companies and 903 employees has ended and the results are in. And yes, they make great reading for your work-life balance.

Employees in the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia made the switch to a four-day working week with no loss of pay in the name of science. 

The four-day week movement is booming in popularity after the pandemic had a profound impact on people’s ideas of work-life balance, as well as a wider shift towards flexible working

The findings come as an even bigger trial of the four-day working week in the UK is nearing its end, with results due in February. 

The question this global trial asked was: could a shorter working week improve employee wellbeing, be better for the environment, improve productivity, and even, make the company more money?

While not all the companies managed to reduce their working week to the goal of 32 hours over four days, on average employees worked six hours a week less – so 35 hours down from 41. The companies ranged from administration, IT and telecoms to professional services and non-profits. 

Orchestrated by 4 Day Week Global, the six-month trial was evaluated by independent academic researchers at Boston College, University College Dublin and Cambridge University.

Here’s what they found.

Staff were less likely to leave for a better paid job elsewhere

As inflation hits the real value of pay packets around the world, employees are asking for a pay rise. And while some companies have been able to meet their demands, others either can’t, or won’t. With workers seeking higher pay to keep up with the rising costs of living, many companies have struggled to stop their staff leaving for greener, better paid, pastures. 

But what price would you put on getting back an extra day of the week to use however you like? 

Seventy percent of people who took part in the trial said that their next job would have to pay them 10 to 50 per cent more, if it demanded they work five days a week.

And for one in eight, no amount of money would persuade them to go back to working five days.

One trial participant said: “The four-day work week is equivalent to (a roughly) 25 per cent pay bump in my opinion”.

Professor Juliet Schor of Boston College said the workers did not report an increase in the intensity of work either. “This suggests that the work re-organisation strategy succeeded and performance was not achieved via speedup, which is neither sustainable nor desirable,” she said.

The companies want to keep to a four-day working week

Of those who filled out the final survey, none said that they were leaning against or not planning on continuing with a four-day week.

And 18 out of the 27 said they are definitely keeping it, with another seven planning to do so.

4 Day Week Global co-founder Charlotte Lockhart believes this is only the beginning and that “change is imminent”.

She said: “The results laid out in this report further prove what we already know and we look forward to expanding this research over the coming months, as other organisations from a range of industries and economies make the switch to reduced-hour, output-focused working.”

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Revenue went up

If you’re dreaming of a shorter working week, here’s the one to put under your boss’s nose. On average, the companies generated 8 per cent more revenue by the end of the trial. 

And when compared to the same six months the year before, revenue was up a staggering 38 per cent. It seems there’s a reason people say work smarter not harder. 

People started living greener lifestyles

Possibly one of the most unexpected results is the knock-on effect the shorter working week had on people’s green credentials. 

”There was a small but significant increase in self-reports of household recycling, walking and cycling rather than driving, and buying eco-friendly products,” according to the report.

With a more open schedule, it would make sense that people have the time to sort the recycling or fix up their bike. So a four-day week could also help in the fight against climate change.

Stress levels went down for those doing a four-day working week

This one’ll come as no surprise –  working less makes you less stressed! Two thirds of employees reported they were less burned-out, though interestingly 16 per cent of workers did say their stress levels increased.

Associate Professor Wen Fan of Boston College said: “A wide range of wellbeing metrics showed significant improvement, including stress levels, burnout, fatigue and work-family conflict. Physical and mental health also improved, alongside satisfaction across multiple domains of life which may be linked to people getting better sleep and more exercise.”

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The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future. 

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